- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Concern about drug and alcohol abuse by parents is the biggest reason hundreds of Kansas children are removed from their homes and placed in foster care each year, according to reports from the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

Statewide, nearly 750 children were removed from their homes because of substance abuse by parents in fiscal year 2014, which ended June 30, The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1pwXyjq ) reported. Of those, 93 were in Sedgwick County.

“It’s safe to say that drugs and alcohol play a significant role,” said Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett.

Substance abuse is a factor in 60 percent to 80 percent of all child-in-need-of-care cases, said Ron Paschal, a Sedgwick County deputy district attorney in charge of the juvenile division.

Last week, Paschal’s staff pulled 10 random cases from August. Of those, eight involved parents with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, one had maternal grandparents with substance abuse issues and only one involved parents with no records of drug or alcohol use.

There are no clear-cut state laws about what to do in parental substance abuse cases, Paschal said.

For example, the agency tried to remove 18-month-old Jayla Haag of El Dorado five months before she died of fatal head injuries in March 2012. A Butler County prosecutor thought the state lacked evidence, according to a timeline for the case from the agency.

Jayla tested positive for meth when she was born and when she died, according to an autopsy and a dismissed lawsuit filed against the state. The autopsy showed she also was suffering from malnutrition and was missing six teeth that had been forcibly detached from her lower gum.

Her mother, Alyssa Haag, is in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Justin Edwards, 31, Alyssa Haag’s boyfriend at the time of Jayla’s death, is facing a first-degree murder charge.

Under state law, medical staff are required to report babies who test positive for drugs at birth. A baby born positive to meth would more than likely result in a request for removal, said Brian Dempsey, the state agency’s director of protection and prevention services.

“The addiction for meth is so strong and hard to break,” he said. “Meth doesn’t stay in your system as long as other drugs, so testing positive (indicates) recent use.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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